Nasi Lemak is a signature dish that Malaysians love to eat especially for breakfast. However over the past few years it has become a trend for F&B operators to have their own take on the traditional dish.
In 2017, McDonald’s launched a Nasi Lemak Burger in Singapore, which sparked off a debate on the internet with both sides laying their claim on this popular dish.
A food war then began over who owns the nasi lemak—a Malay traditional dish that comprises of fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf with a side of sambal, fried ground nuts, and anchovies.
Seeing that Singaporeans were enjoying their rendition of the Nasi Lemak, local F&B outlets like myBurgerLab then tried to make their own version of the Nasi Lemak Burger called the Nasi Lemak Ayam Rendang Burger.
Nasi lemak everything have popped up over the years, ranging from sushi, to ice cream to even a nasi lemak cake. In that spirit, there’s another take of it—Nasi Lemak Babi.
Porking Up Nasi Lemak
Take all the ingredients of nasi lemak but just add siu yuk (roast pork) this time. Depending on your tastes, that’s either a brilliant idea, or a complete fail-move.
The people behind it are Malaysians, Ken Jin, Manis, and Djoni, who also call their business a cheeky Nasi Lemak Ka.Fir.
It all started with a “why not?” between the founders as they were looking at the challenge of creating a unique brand online with a very playful and casual tone.
“Naturally, the idea of serving delicious Malaysian staples with a non-halal twist seemed like the perfect fit,” said one of the co-founders, Ken Jin.
The trio come from different backgrounds and operate Nasi Lemak Ka.Fir on a part time basis. Ken Jin, is in charge of marketing and sales as he has experience in marketing agencies. Manis, is the so-called chief creative babi who has experience in the creative and branding industry. And then there’s Djoni, who wields expertise in F&B and the frozen food industry.
Ever since their official launch in January 2019, the business has been experiencing an increase in demand for their Nasi Lemak Babi.
They have plans to work on it on a full-time basis as they realised that re-approaching unsuspecting markets like the non-halal market with a fresh approach to branding and marketing can give it new life.
“We see the regional and global potential of Malaysian foods and will be expanding appropriately as our market grows,” he explained.
Non-halal food has actually been hard to market as the majority of citizens in Malaysia are Muslims—an estimated 61% in 2010. However, Ken Jin and his team have found a way to sell it in a fun and quirky way that even Muslims are amused by.
“Apart from increasing the accessibility of the non-halal food market, we wanted to challenge the stigma surrounding non-halal food and supposedly derogatory terms like kafir,” he said.
The term kafir basically refers to a person who rejects or disbelieves in God or the tenets of Islam.
According to Ken Jin, although pork may be haram (forbidden) for some, it’s still a source of sustenance for others.
“At the same time, we want to leave a positive mark by creating conversations around our food and the experience of living in such a culturally diverse country,” he added.
Although we’re currently at a place where there are a lot of ongoing discussions around racial sensitivities, the Nasi Lemak Ka.Fir team doesn’t think that their business and marketing tactics online will be an issue.
“According to statistics, the national literacy rate is 93.12%,” he said.
He believes that as long as they are clear about their product offering, they won’t land into any trouble.
“We’ve successfully built a brand that really resonates with people here,” he said. “We always try to remain neutral whilst sparking conversations that intersect our different languages, cultures and food here.”
They currently have two items on their menu: Crispy Pork Nasi Lemak at RM16, and Nasi Lemak Batang Kafir (with pork sausages) at RM12. The business operates on Mondays to Fridays and delivers between 11am–2pm with a delivery fee of RM4 (depending on location).
Nasi Lemak Ka.Fir began with an initial capital of just RM500 and they broke even in their first month thanks to great fanfare from customers.
Due to the increase in number of orders, they’ve also recently moved to their central kitchen to cater to customers in the heart of Klang Valley.
Other than just dishing out porky nasi lemak, the team is also looking at other forms of monetisation.
“The plan is to continue to sell more nasi lemak but we do have a few avenues like merchandising to diversify into once our brand and capacity grows bigger,” Ken Jin.
Although they’re only less than 6 months in, they’ve already recorded promising growth so far.
“Based on our early track record of tripling our growth in the first three months from an average of 20 to 80 boxes a day, we expect to have consistent 10% growth every month,” he said.
The team themselves didn’t expect to gain so much traction in such a short amount of time and they had a hard time keeping up with the growing demand.
The secret to their success is probably how controversial the business is but the team doesn’t mind it as it’s more of a plus point for them.
“We were surrounded by controversy since the first day we launched online,” he said. “Brands tend to steer away from it, but we embrace it and maintain consistency to it because at the end of the day, audiences gravitate towards honest messaging.”
The future of Nasi Lemak Ka.Fir might even see it becoming part of the frozen food market as the team strongly believes in the role of frozen foods.
“We believe this will be a strong core for Nasi Lemak Ka.Fir which will also play a role in our regional expansion,” he said.
“We also foresee the company embracing new forms of scaling production like automated cooking which we think will be the future.”
If you would like to find out more about Nasi Lemak Ka.Fir, you can check out their social media here.
Feature Image Credit: Nasi Lemak Ka.Fir